Small school gem Cole Strange can play guard or center for Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Draft News

For the first time in a long time, Pittsburgh needs a new quarterback.

But the top QBs might not be available when the Steelers pick at No. 20, and Pittsburgh isn’t known to reach for a player in the draft.

So, you can probably scratch QB off the list in the first round.

Pittsburgh also needs a cornerback and an interior offensive lineman. There should be plenty of CB options that late in the first round, including Auburn’s Roger McCreary (ranked No. 18 in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board), Florida’s Kaiir Elam (No. 19), Washington’s Trent McDuffie (25) and Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. (29).

However, there are only two interior linemen who are ranked among the top 32 players in Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum (No. 7) and Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green (No. 23). Therefore, it’s conceivable both are gone before Pittsburgh is on the clock.

One potential Day 2 or Day 3 target is Chattanooga “mauler” Cole Strange, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound guard who can also play center.

Pittsburgh started two rookies along its offensive line this year in left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and center Kendrick Green. As is the case with every rookie, both struggled at times this season, and now there’s talk about moving Green from center to guard (he played both positions at Illinois).

Either way, there’s likely going to be an opening along the Steelers’ interior offensive line, which shouldn’t be a problem for Strange. Ranked as the No. 137 overall prospect in the latest Rigdon big board, Strange tells Fanspeak that he’s comfortable playing any position along the line. Strange played 38 games and started 33 of them. Of those starts, all but one came at left guard. The one game he didn’t start at LG? Strange started the season finale at left tackle due to injury. He’s also played some center and may get a long look at the position during Senior Bowl practices.

“(I talked to) several people when the season was still going, scouts would come by, and a lot of time, I had a chance to speak with them, talk to them about different things, football, home life, anything,” Strange said in an interview with Fanspeak. “And the position I’m going to play in the (NFL) is something almost all of them talked to me about. They all said I should learn to play more than one position – guard, center, tackle. Anything.

“The position I’m most comfortable with is left guard. … But I’ve taken reps (in practice) at every position along the line.”

Strange says he’s not worried about the position he plays at, adding that it’s just a matter of getting comfortable at that position over time.

But he’s already made a huge transition – Strange was a linebacker at Farragut Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. until moving to defensive end his senior year. He changed positions once again when he arrived at Chattanooga.

“I never played offensive line until college, and when I finally did – especially my first year – I didn’t win many one-on-one battles in practice,” he said, “but I constantly worked to get better.”

Analysts have labeled Strange as a mauler, brawler and an old school player – something Pittsburgh fans will love.

“Yeah, I’ve seen all three examples. Really, I just try to play ‘nasty’ out there – be aggressive, play through the whistle, just go at everything with a relentless nature,” he said.

Strange was recently ranked as the No. 142 overall prospect by Pro Football Focus. That puts him in the Round 4 to Round 5 range. However, there aren’t very many true centers in this draft, so he may go higher if a team needs one. And a good Combine showing could also boost his draft stock.

Strange says he’s currently training in Florida and will leave at the end of the month for the Senior Bowl.

So, is he concerned about the step-up in competition?

“I’m not nervous,” he said. “With me, you know you’ve got a player who’s gonna come in to work, be professional, do all the little things right. And as far as (the NFL) being ‘too big’ for me, there’s nothing I won’t be able to … accomplish or learn to master. There’s nothing about this that makes me so concerned that I’m worrying myself to death. I look at (the step-up in competition) as objectively as I can.”

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